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Summary of June 18 Toronto Mayoral Debate (Part 1)
Tonight, I attended a mayoral debate at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre organized by councillor Michael Walker and his staff. I will write a summary of the night here, and write my comments in a second, later, article.
Tom Jakobek was the first candidate there. Both he and Tory spent some time talking to the audience before hand, and generally moved about shaking hands. Jakobek sat and chatted with a small group of people including me. He told stories about things accomplished at City Hall despite public resistance. For example, he talked about the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, and how one resident's resistance added $2M to the cost of the project. Despite that, it has turned out to be a wonderful resource for the community. They were well-told stories that always ended up with Jakobek acheiving something good.
John Nunziata was the best dressed and the smoothest talker. John Tory was the worst dressed, but had a sense of humour.
Each candidate (excluding the absent Miller) was allowed some time for opening remarks.
Jakobek promised to get the city's financial house in order by battling debt. He said he'd have a recovery plan for SARS and the other crises that have befallen the city. He'd improve our image by hiring 88 new street cleaners and 5,000 summer student cleaners. He'd also rewrite or change the new official plan because it says we must have more people and density without saying where.
Nunziata spoke mainly about integrity and the need for new leadership. He told us that he's not an insider (like all the others) and he's not beholden to anybody. He said that taxation, crime and declining city services are the issues.
Hall told us that she helped build the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre. She talked about the challenges the city faces, but my notes don't reveal and solutions put forward. She talked about unity, and how we can't divide the city into separate warring camps. She mentioned integrity, SARS, crime and clean streets as issues.
Tory focused on professional management. In a shot at Hall, he said we can't acheive a change by turning to the past. He talked about partnering with other levels of government and refered to his 10-point plan to restore trust. He raised the development issue by saying that elected officials need to be able to override the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and that neighbourhoods need to be involved. He says the official plan can work, but we need precise by-laws with no exceptions allowed. He supports professional planning and promised to manage planning better.
The bulk of the debate was based on questions from the audience with answers from the candidates in rotating order. Audience members were allowed to direct questions to specific candidates but it rarely happened.
The first question was about why police was such a major expense in the budget, but we spend so little on prevention through social programs.
Nunziata talked about toughening up the justice system. He complained about his lack of a right to know if a pedophile lives next door. He said that he supports the police and thier budget.
Hall said that we spend a lot of time responding to crime after the fact, but we should put resources to prevention. She cited the community centre as an example. She also spoke out for having the best-trained police force, with a representative face. And, she talked about working together with police, educators, and all of us to reduce crime
Tory said we are willing to pay a lot for saftey, but on the other hand he does not support an unlimited police budget. We need to press harder because Ottawa talks too long about changes that would improve the justice system.
Jakobek supports more police officers on the street. He does not support a blank cheque and says he opposed spending $5.2M on a police helicopter. He would rather have had 70 police officers for that price. He won't cut the police budget, but supports spending on other things, like the 5,000 students he wants to hire. He also cited the community centre. Then he blamed The Sopranos and television as the root cause of crime in our community
The second question was about city planning stability and certainty. The questioner pointed out that the OMB is presently in total command.
Hall said the new official plan is a big improvement over the old one and is a good statement of vision. We need to have a tough but fair process. We need to consult with residents and not make backroom surprise deal. She finds Minto to be disgraceful. But the new plan earned her respect for talking about quality and beauty. She promised to implement the official plan with respect for local democracy and quality.
Tory said we need to follow up on the official plan and get quite specific about what's allowed where. Beauty is nice, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- referring, I believe, both to Hall and to the tendency to make trade-offs with developers. He wants to mandate discussions between neighbours and developers. And, he wants to press hard for a political override. He says cabinet had one when he worked with Bill Davis. But, it would be better if city council had one with a two-thirds or three-quarters vote.
Jakobek told us he has served a long time on the zoning committee. He said planners just don't get it. Local politicians know better than the city planner what should be allowed. The official plan needs to be rewritten because it doesn't show where the new 1,000,000 people are going to live. He gave an example of new development at Main and Danforth using the official plan as an excuse for over-development.
Nunziata said that the problem is corruption and that developers rule through undue influence. He wants a lobbyist registration plan. He accused Hall of selling out on the waterfront and allowing a wall of condos when she was mayor. He feels Minto is a travesty because people should not have the value of their homes so severely compromised. He wants to abolish the OMB and give the power to elected officials.
Miller arrived and said we need to make City Hall a place of integrity again. He said we know how to do planning in this city by listening to people. We need a secondary plan for places like Yonge and Eglinton, but it is a transit hub and requires density. He took a stand against the Island Airport and said the waterfront should be special.
A more pointed question was asked about reforming the OMB.
Tory said that reforming the OMB must be done by the provincial government. He will push for that as well as for support on transit and a new deal for cities. He reminded us that the upcoming provincial election is a time we can push our case. He claimed city MP and MPPs forget Toronto while in office.
Jakobek said he wants to eliminate or restrict the OMB. In the meantime planners should be taught to understand "no". The city should have a policy of automatically defending their bylaws. When planning conflicts arrise, there should not be protracted discussions with too many meetings that wear residents down. Instead one night should be able to decide the issue. He also does not support Minto.
Nunziata also was against Minto. He wants to abolish the OMB and says it is patronage heaven. He doesn't blame the planners and says they are educated planners. He blames councillors who make decisions.
Hall would curtail OMB power. She claims she worked hard to oppose central waterfront development on Queen's Quay, but it was the OMB that forced it. She feels issues like that should come back to council but that there should also be an override to council because it can be wrong too. She didn't commit on Minto because she wasn't privy to all the reports, but she doesn't support the process. We need more local democracy.
Miller says that the OMB is outrageous and has distorted planning. The OMB shoiuld only exist as an appeal on issues of whether or not the city has followed its own rules. Furthermore, it is outrageous that big projects can appeal to the OMB after just 90 days. Public involvement should be mandatory and a current success story in his ward was cited. Negotiations should include the public from the beginning. He is trying to ensure a good process for the redevelopment of TTC lands and Yonge and Eglinton.
A question was then asked about waste management.
Miller says he does not support incineration as it is short-sighted. We need to learn from other cities as we are not leaders anymore. We need to roll out the green box program across the city immediately. Apartment buildings need better waste reduction. We need to be open to new technologies but not burning. We need to advocate change at Queen's Park, including bottle returns and packaging fees. City council passed a bylaw to require LCBO bottle returns and the province outlawed it.
Jakobek cannot support incineration. Nor does he support sending garbage to Michigan. He says we have an inefficient system where we have four trucks come by for four different things. He wants to have one pick-up with a central sorting system. He claims recycling can be increased this way with a big financial savings. He also wants packaging taxes and returnable bottles.
Nunziata is opposed to shipping garbage to Michigan and wants to send it to the Adams Mine instead. He wants new technology, but not incinerators. He nixed Jakobeks central processing idea. He is concerned about packaging and wants returnable bottles.
Hall is against incinerators and the Adams Mine. She wants to reduce garbage, particularly packaging. She wants to expedite the green box and new technology. She envisions Toronto as a creator of new products through reclaimed material.
Tory supports recycling, diversion, and improvements in apartment buildings. He wonders why the city has been so slow to roll out the green box program. He says we need to fight Queen's Park and have them eliminate non-returnable packaging like PEI has. He says that if it is outrageous to ship to Michigan, then it also is to ship to Northern Ontario. Ruling out new technology is wrong. There will always be something left over that needs to be dealt with, so it is irresponsible to think there are easy answers.
Miller was asked directly why he supported the Minto Towers.
Miller said it was a compromise he felt he had to make because the city had to accept the best deal it could get before the OMB took over. He also said he supports relatively intense development at transit hubs.
A question was then asked about campaign finance reform.
Jakobek said all his disclosures from all his campaigns are available and he has never taken money from lobbyists. He spent the rest of his time returning to the planning issue.
Nunziata commended Jean Chretien for the new finance reform that is being moved through parliament. He said there are good local restrictions in place. He said that the only next step would be going to a publicly funded plan like that of Chretien's.
Hall said that the municipal finance legislation has been tightened up but that it will be a big issue to restore integrity to City Hall.
Tory said we have safeguards in place and the remaining reform would be a move like Chretien's. He said we might have to consider it in light of the City Hall scandals.
Miller says he accepts all donations except from planners with a pending development in his ward. However, he accused Barbara Hall of breaking the spirit of the rules which say fundraising is only allowed by declared candidates and only allowed in the election year. Barbara Hall's "Friends" raised money last year.
Later, Hall replied that she takes the law seriously. She claims she was advised that what happened was within the rules and that people contributed to a fund for polling.
Tory challenged her to release her pre-election donors, the amounts, and what the spending was on. He pointed about that he raised no money before declaring and spent personal money on a poll.
Hall said she would release this information.
Nunziata asked when. "Before the election?"
This is all I can write tonight. I will continue tomorrow -- there's quite a bit more, and then my comments.